Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Way of the Geek #5 - Chris Sims!

Chris Sims is one of the more famous comics bloggers I've approached for “The Way of the Geek,” and I really appreciate getting his participation. As many of you probably already know, Chris is the mastermind behind “Chris's Invincible Super-Blog”, and he's also the senior writer for ComicsAlliance.com, an Eisner-nominated site, and writes for other freelance projects.

Chris was born in Ohio, but grew up and lives in South Carolina. He's got one older sister, and is single with no children. Along with comic books, he's also a self-confessed “big video game fan,” and also enjoys pen-and-paper Role-Playing Games, although he admits that he used to have more time for that particular hobby. Chris' earliest geek memories “have to do with going to the convenience store across the street from my grandparents' house to get comics, which is where I bought the infamous Batman-throws-a-car-battery issue that I love to this day,” he said. Regular readers of Chris' blog will no doubt remember that particular Batman comic themselves!

Growing up, Chris' sister wasn't into the same geekery he was. He recalled, “My sister and I used to argue about the SNES when she wanted to watch TV.” In thinking about his geek childhood, Chris admitted that “I used to wear a Robin costume, green dishwashing gloves, and a mask and ride my bike around the neighborhood 'on patrol.'” Who says that none of the kids reading comics wanted to be Robin?

Chris doesn't have any of his childhood toys these days, although he wishes he still had the Legos he used to have! He explained that he was “pretty tough” on his toys (so many of us did that, which is why our favorite childhood toys are so expensive to reacquire as adults, eh?).

As an adult, Chris has purchased Batman #425 four or five times to give away as a contest prize. He's collected all the 25th Anniversary GI Joes, and hopes they get around to making a USS Flagg for those figures. He reports that most of the comics he remembered from his childhood have “found their way back into my collection,” so he's doing better than many of us are.

When asked about how much space his collection takes up, Chris responded, “Oh man, way too much. I've got 20 boxes of comics, plus four bookshelves of graphic novels, with others in stacks where I can get them for research. I'd like to slim down the collection, but I use so much of it for my job that I never know when I'm going to need, say, a copy of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.”

So what's Chris' most cherished geek possession? “Last year, my pal and children's author Jake Bell got me a signed copy of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #53, the infamous Haunted Vagina issue, signed by writer/artist Jim Balent and made out to me. Also, I broke down and bought Cliff Chiang's original art for his Gatchaman-inspired reimagining of Batman, Science Ninja Hero Batman.”

Chris attended his first convention for work at the age of 22. “It was this tiny little show in Atlanta where my boss had brought five people (plus him) to work two booths, which basically meant we all had a lot of time to walk around. The thing I remember is that all of the pros at the show, especially Phil Hester, were just the nicest guys. We even ended up at a party with Josh Blaylock, who was at the time the writer of GI Joe, and I ended up giving him a hug on a dare.”

These days, the only show Chris usually gets to is HeroesCon in Charlotte. “HeroesCon 2008 was fantastic,” he said, “Just a ton of fun stuff going on, and again, super-nice people like Jeff Parker and Matt Fraction.” This year, Chris was able to go to the San Diego Comic-Con. "It was a massive beast of a con, but everyone I met was really nice," he said.

Speaking of Matt Fraction, Chris recalled his first meeting with him: “I'd emailed him a couple of times, but I didn't know what he looked like. So I'm going down the escalator holding this giant blow-up I'd made of Count Dante, the guy who used to advertise teaching you the Death Touch in '70s and '80s comics, and the guy behind me goes: 'Hey, is that for sale?' I told him no, I'd just brought it to display, and then, because I am a total nerd, honest-to-God quoted Lord of the Rings and told him it was precious to me. Then he went 'Are you Chris Sims?' because I guess I'm probably the only one who would carry around a giant Count Dante poster and quote Gandalf, and turns out it was Fraction.”

Chris' most unusual geek interest is collecting Abraham Lincoln comic book covers and appearances. He's not aware of anyone else who does this!

Chris' Invincible Super Blog had an interesting start. “I've been writing since I was a teenager--I had my first professional writing work at 17--but by the time I was in my early 20s, I'd slacked off a little. So I made a resolution to write more, and a friend of mine named Phil suggested I start a blog. So six days into 2005, I did. And there went the next five years.”

As with most geek blogs, the ISB had an evolutionary process. “At first, I was just writing goofy thoughts and trying my best not to be That Guy. You know, the guy who writes a terminally boring online diary. About six months into it, I started to narrow the focus more onto comics (although I'd always talked about them, as I was working in a comic book store at the time), and when I started to get a bigger audience, I started to narrow things down and work a little harder on it. It became something less of a hobby and more of a dedication, which has eaten up a lot of time.”

Chris' regular features include weekly reviews, “which started out as a way to have at least one post per week that I knew what I'd be doing, which of course turned into one of the most time-consuming things I did for years.” He noted, “Basically every recurring feature started as me trying to buy myself a little extra time (like the Many Emotions of Batman) and of course they end up taking way more time to put together than they should. Another example of that is Wrestler Wisdom Fridays, where I transcribe a piece of a professional wrestling interview every week and then superimpose it onto a screenshot of the wrestler in question. It's weird, but it makes me laugh.” Chris also does “annotations” of the Anita Blake comics, “Which I'm only still doing because my readers love to see me suffer.”

Aside from the many friends he's made through his blog, he says the biggest reward he's received from blogging is his full-time writing job. “I've got a small but dedicated audience for my comics, which is nice. And every now and then, somebody'll buy me something off my Amazon Wishlist. Which is pretty awesome.”

The blogs that Chris reads on a regular basis are “my pals Mike Sterling (Progressive Ruin) Dave Lartigue (Dave Ex Machina) and Andrew Weiss (Armagideon Time), and the Comics Curmudgeon, which is the best way to keep up with newspaper strips. I'm also a reader of WFMU's Beware of the Blog, the LEGO site The Brothers Brick, and the stuff I think everybody loves, like Ugliest Tattoos, Sexy People and Regretsy. Oh, and the Eisner-Nominated ComicsAlliance, of course.” Of course!

As an adult, Chris admits that the geekiest thing he did was something that one usually sees children doing. “Okay, so there's this attraction at Myrtle Beach called MagiQuest, where you get a "magic wand" that emits an RF signal, and then go into this huge room where it's basically Harry Potter Lazer Tag as a scavenger hunt. There are objects with RF sensors, so when you point your wand at them, chests open and "paintings" (flatscreen TVs embedded into the walls) come to life. It's AWESOME. I paid for the deluxe package and played like 90 minutes in one. In January. When I was 27.” I know that this same game is also available at the Great Wolf Lodge here in Olympia, and my son has played it, although not with near the dedication Chris must've had!

Chris makes his regular comics purchases at Heroes and Dragons in Columbia, SC, with his other purchases online. He's never bought through eBay, although he's sold there (“Thanks, guy who bought my run of Walking Dead for $300!”). His best advice to anyone selling on eBay is, “Spend four years not sleeping because you're working on a comics blog, then shill like a madman to the audience you build.” Given what he got for his run of Walking Dead, it must've worked, eh?

Chris' geek inspirations are many. “As a writer of geeky things, I think I've learned a lot from people who tackled the same sort of thing before me, like Seanbaby, or the other comics bloggers that I've come across. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Fraction's two pieces of advice: 'Don't suck' and 'Do better next time.'”

So what do comics really mean to Chris? “I think comics represent this form of media that's been isolated by the public at large for so many years that it's been developed by people who love it and who are genius craftsmen like Kirby and Morrison and Moore, so that it's become sophisticated without losing the fun that it has at heart. There are guys who tell genuine emotional stories that reflect metaphorically on the lives of their readers and the nature of the world that can still have talking gorillas on jetpacks. That's a beautiful thing, and I hope comics never lose it. I hope that's the sensibility that a wider audience can latch onto and respect.”

And to wrap this up, here's Chris' words of inspiration to his fellow geeks: “Work hard, be honest, be nice, and don't let the haters get to you.”

Thanks, Chris!

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